By Christina Rivers
“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.” – Machiavelli
Whether Machiavelli was correct in his thinking or not, it appears that football fans are animated by passion. To encourage this passion, I thought it would be interesting to take a step out of the present and travel 12 years into the past of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. Each decade in the Steelers\’ history has been fraught with ups and downs, free agent signings, the release of players, injuries and off-field issues. This week we\’ll look at the end of February – March 2000.
- March 15 – The University of Pittsburgh was reeling from an announcement the previous year that Pitt Stadium was set to be imploded. Reversing that sadness, the Pitt Panthers extended the coaching position of Walt Harris. It was reported that the football team would move to Three Rivers Stadium for the 2000 season and “into the Steelers\’ still unnamed new stadium in 2001.” Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt (former Pitt players) publicly condemned the demolition. Pitt also announced it would abandon campus practice sessions and share a new facility with the Steelers on the city\’s South Side. Construction began on Three Rivers Stadium on April 25, 1968, and the Steelers played most of their games in Pitt Stadium before moving to the new stadium in 1970. In a rare move, Pitt officials sold off parts of the venue. 40 commemorative bricks went on sale for $75 each and 129 lockers from the original locker room went for $1,200 a piece. The Pitt Panthers now play their home games at Heinz Field with the Steelers.
- Kevin Colbert was hired as the Steelers\’ Director of Football Operations and made a statement that he believed he could eliminate the friction between coach Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe that may have cost Donahoe his job. Colbert, a Pittsburgh native, worked for a decade as the Detroit Lions\’ pro scouting director and also worked with the Miami Dolphins. Often credited with putting together the Super Bowl XL team with Dan Rooney and Bill Cowher, Colbert attended North Catholic High School and Robert Morris University.
- Pittsburgh-native, NFL free agent Gus Frerotte was in Ford City, Pennsylvania to visit his ailing father. He made a stop at Three Rivers Stadium to visit with Steelers coach Bill Cowher and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Frerotte was a backup to (current Steelers quarterback) Charlie Batch in Detroit. Frerotte ended up signing with the Denver Broncos for the 2000 season. Speculation at the time was that Frerotte was interested in playing in Pittsburgh.
- The Steelers signed free agent quarterback Kent Graham to compete with Kordell Stewart prior to Spring practice. Originally the team had made comments that they planned on staying with Mike Tomczak and Stewart. Then on Wednesday, March 2, Stewart was \’officially designated\’ as the Steelers\’ starting quarterback. Stewart didn\’t start the final five games of the 1999 season. Bill Cowher told the AP that Graham would have to “beat out” Stewart for the job. Stewart led the Steelers to the AFC Championship game during the 1997 season, but struggled and was subsequently benched or relegated to duties at wide receiver. Cowher admitted that the Steelers weighed making offers to Mike Tomczak and Gus Frerotte, but “settled” on Graham who was beaten-out for the job by Kerry Collins in 2009 (with the New York Giants). The Steelers also signed offensive lineman Rich Tylski and defensive linemen Chris Sullivan and Kimo Von Oelhoffen.
Feel free to comment if you have a favorite memory from these months in Steelers history.